Tim Tebow still on PABA's radar for World Baseball Classic

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow can still play for the Philippines once the national team jumps into action in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) qualifiers this year.

Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) secretary general Pepe Munoz said Tuesday that Tebow, a former Heisman Trophy winner, is still with the minor league system of the New York Mets and is still "a potential player" for the national team.

Tebow was reassigned to the Mets' minor league camp in March 2020 and is reportedly expected to rejoin the organization in the 2021 MLB season.

"He will continue to be a member of the program of the Mets at least for this year. So in the World Baseball Classic, once we know the schedule, he will still remain with us as a potential player," Munoz told reporters at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.

PABA was able to recruit Tebow last year owing to lenient WBC rules that allow players to represent their birth nations even without a passport. Tebow was born to missionary parents in Makati in 1987 and lived there for three years before eventually moving to Florida.

Tebow went on to win two national titles in Florida and play for the NFL Denver Broncos and New York Jets before transitioning to baseball.

The 33-year-old outfielder was set to make his debut for the Philippines last year in Tucson, Arizona, but the coronavirus pandemic forced WBC officials to postpone the qualifiers.

Munoz said the Mets organization, under new ownership, is interested in retaining the 33-year-old outfielder's services.

"The problem with Tim Tebow is he's 33, so he's starting to get old as a player. But in spite of that, the New York Mets are still interested in having Tim Tebow in the program," Munoz said, citing reports. "In other words, the New York Mets are enjoying a benefit by his participation. So it's a mutual benefit between Tim Tebow and the New York Mets."

This bodes well for Tebow's chances of representing the Philippines, although the dates for this year's WBC qualifiers have yet to be determined.

"The World Baseball Classic will push through, but there's so many challenges," said Munoz. "Maybe it will depend on the progress with the vaccine and how the COVID situation is developing."

Aside from Tebow, PABA officials are also eyeing other Filipino-Americans to bolster the national team's lineup in the event that the WBC qualifiers push through this year.

"The interesting news is during the pandemic, several Fil-Am players have sent us their resume saying they want to be part of our program. So there's a few more interesting players that will present themselves to us for the next round," said Munoz.

Among those who expressed their intention to play for the Philippines is Darren Baker, the son of Houston Astros manager and former MLB All-Star Dusty Baker.

The younger Baker, whose mother Melissa is a Filipino, plays second baseman and will play a final year with UC Berkeley after going undrafted in the 2020 MLB Draft.

"It was the mother who sent me the email asking if her son could join the team. And I said, 'Okay, can you send me some background about him?' And they sent me a whole library of videos showing the son playing," said Munoz. "Darren Baker will be an interesting player to watch. We're looking forward to him being part of the team."